Jerichow (2008)

The eternal love triangle is given the Hitchcockian treatment in Petzold’s spare but tightly-executed melodrama about outsiders in society. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #2,180

Dir. Christian Petzold
2008 | Germany | Drama | 92 mins | 1.85:1 | German & Turkish
Not rated – likely to be M18 for sexual scene and nudity

Cast: Benno Furmann, Nina Hoss, Hilmi Sozer
Plot: The dishonorably discharged Afghanistan veteran Thomas returns to his home village of Jerichow. Ali, a local Turkish-German businessman, owner of a snack-bar chain, hires him as a driver. That’s when Thomas meets Laura, his boss’s young and attractive wife. 
Awards: Nom. for Golden Lion (Venice)
International Sales: The Match Factory

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Outsiders in Society; Extramarital Affair
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

I have been wanting to see a Christian Petzold picture for quite some time.  So here’s my first stab at it, courtesy of MUBI. 

His fifth feature, Jerichow, sets the eternal love triangle story against the backdrop of contemporary Germany, or more precisely, in the rural regions as Thomas, a German man who had been dishonourably discharged from a tour in Afghanistan, comes to terms with a life with seemingly no direction. 

That is, until he is acquainted with a Turkish immigrant named Ali who owns a business supplying goods to various local F&B outlets and warehouses.  Things take a turn for the erotic when Thomas and Laura, Ali’s young German wife, begin a secret affair. 

Petzold is very much in firm grasp of the elements of suspense here as he gives the narrative a Hitchcockian treatment—there is a sense of unpredictability to how things might play out. 

“I live in a country that doesn’t want me with a woman that I bought.”

We never know for sure if Ali is aware of their affair; neither are we given enough cues on what the characters may be thinking about at any given moment. 

Instead, Jerichow cleverly relies on an ambiguous psychological space that operates ‘offscreen’, where anything can develop or be defied as Petzold plays with but also wilfully subverts genre conventions. 

It is a tightly-executed melodrama, and its seemingly spare approach to filmmaking does remind of something the Dardennes might do. 

As a film about outsiders in society—an unwelcome immigrant, a disgraced war veteran—and a woman who must find in herself the moral compass to overcome her lack of agency, Jerichow is an interesting take—and diversion—from the usual love triangle narrative.  Excited to see more from Petzold in time to come. 

Grade: B+



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